Laceration on kneecap forces Barney to DL
Utility man Gonzalez added to Opening Day roster; Lillibridge starts at second
PITTSBURGH -- If Darwin Barney suffered a cut anywhere else on his leg, he might have been in the Cubs' lineup on Monday. But the Gold Glove second baseman has a deep laceration on his left kneecap, and will be sidelined at least two weeks.
Barney, injured in the final exhibition game Saturday at Minute Maid Park when he crashed into the wall along the right-field line, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Sunday. The Cubs selected the contract of infielder Alberto Gonzalez and added him to the 40-man roster, and Brent Lillibridge started at second in the Cubs' season opener against the Pirates.
"You spend your whole offseason thinking about today [Opening Day] -- when you're in the gym, when you're pushing yourself," Barney said Monday at PNC Park, wearing a large bandage on his left knee. "We had a good spring as a club. We did a lot of things positively. It's unfortunate, but the good thing is we have guys who can fill in like Lillibridge and Gonzalez, who are good players.
"I feel very comfortable with Lillibridge out there," Barney added. "He's a great player. Good thing is, we're a team, and I'm still a part of it, and I can still be out there helping out. With [pitcher Matt] Garza not here, maybe I'll take over his yelling role."
Barney has photos of the cut on his knee, and it's not pretty.
"You take five stitches anywhere else on the body, he would've been playing," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's right on the middle of the kneecap and any time you bend it right now, it would rupture the stitches. It's unfortunate. He'd be playing if it was on the shin or something like that. Unfortunately, it was right on the kneecap."
Whether Lillibridge will play every day was to be determined, Sveum said.
"We'll wing that and see how it all goes," he said.
The Cubs have had their share of injuries this spring. Garza (strained lat), Scott Baker (strained right elbow), Arodys Vizcaino (right elbow), and third baseman Ian Stewart (sore left quad) all opened the season on the disabled list.
Barney knows his injury could've been much more severe. He will be re-examined in one week.
"I thought by sliding, I'd be protecting myself," Barney said. "There's a concrete corner and slab on the bottom [of the wall]. I ran right into that. When I pulled my pant leg up, i was pretty freaked out, and didn't have any idea [the cut] was there."
Barney knows all about hard surfaces. He wasn't going to complain to the Astros about the freak injury.
"Wrigley Field is lined by bricks," Barney said. "It'd be kind of, probably, the wrong thing to do morally to complain about a concrete slab on the bottom of their fence. It's tough. Wrigley Field doesn't have edges, so that helps a little bit.
"It's not the first time it's happened and hopefully it's the last," he said. "Next time, I'll know to go over the fence instead of into it."
Barney can still take swings in the batting cage, but otherwise has to limit how much he bends his left knee.
"If [the cut] is two inches lower, I'm probably fine," he said. "The fact that it's right on my knee, you go down for a backhand, you slide, go headfirst diving, anything that hits on that spot could break open the stitches and start the process over. At this point, the safe thing to do is not let that happen.
"It's just a matter of staying out of game play so I don't bang it or reinjure it," he said. "It's an unfortunate area, but it's all right. I have all the confidence in the world in the guys in this clubhouse."
Barney was watching the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sunday night and saw Louisville's Kevin Ware break his leg in the game against Duke.
"I was laying in bed, feeling bad for myself, and all of a sudden I felt blessed to just have a deep laceration," Barney said. "That poor guy [Ware] last night. I'll be back. Unfortunately, he has a lot more rehab than I do. It definitely could've been worse.
"We'll look at it positively and just be happy that I'm still walking right now and move on from there," he said.
Lillibridge, 29, batted .313 this spring, and played all infield spots as well as some outfield. This was his first Opening Day start in his career.
"Lillibridge will step in," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Darwin's a great player and a great person, too, and great friend. He'll be back and ready, and hopefully this is just a hiccup."
Takahashi, Gonzalez, Lilllibridge make roster
PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs finalized the 25-man roster on Monday, officially selecting the contracts of pitcher Hisanori Takahashi and infielders Alberto Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge. Outfielder Brett Jackson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
Steve Clevenger, who made the Opening Day roster last year as the backup catcher, earned the final bench spot.
"It's nice to be able to pinch-hit [Dioner] Navarro, pinch-hit Clevenger, pinch-run for them, and be able to use that roster spot there to do many, many things," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Monday. "To have two left-handers on the bench, and one of them is a switch-hitter, you can do so many things, having a guy who can catch."
Takahashi, a non-roster invitee, joins James Russell as the only left-handers in the bullpen.
"He's very durable," Sveum said of Takahashi. "If the game goes accordingly every day, then you have two lefties in the last few innings of the game."
Right-handed pitcher Scott Baker was placed on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. Right-handed pitcher Matt Garza (left lat strain), infielder Ian Stewart (left quad strain) and infielder Darwin Barney (left knee laceration) all were placed on the 15-day disabled list. Garza and Stewart were retroactive to March 22, while Barney was retroactive to Sunday.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Gonzalez, right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack, an eighth-round pick in 2009, was designated for assignment. Whitenack has been recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2011.
A few players and Sveum also switched uniform numbers on Opening Day. Sveum will now wear No. 4. He gave up No. 33 to pitcher Carlos Villanueva. Navarro will wear No. 30, and Travis Wood No. 37.
Cubs, city officials to meet again on Wrigley plan
PITTSBURGH -- Can the Cubs install a video scoreboard inside Wrigley Field? That appears to be one of the sticking points in negotiations between the team, city officials and the Wrigleyville rooftop owners.
Officials with the Cubs, the city of Chicago and the Wrigleyville neighborhood were expected to continue talks on Tuesday regarding the team's proposed $300 million renovation plan of Wrigley Field.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts proposed the five-year plan in January, and wants to begin this offseason with renovation of the home clubhouse. But the Cubs want assurances from the city that they can play more night games and install a video scoreboard, among other things, which would generate more revenue.
Ricketts had set Opening Day as a deadline but no resolution has been reached. Mike Lufrano, Cubs executive vice president of community affairs and legal counsel, met Monday with top mayoral aide Matt Hynes and Wrigleyville Ald. Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's City Hall office.
Part of the Cubs' plan includes installing a 6,000-square-foot video screen inside the ballpark. But rooftop club owners want to preserve their views and believe the screen would block them.
According to reports, the rooftop owners are willing to put signs on their buildings and let the Ricketts keep the revenue, and they want to extend their current agreement with the Cubs.
"There's good progress made to both to allow the Cubs owners to make the investments they need in the stadium," Emanuel said during a news conference in Chicago, "and there's good progress also to make sure the community around Wrigley ... sees the type of parking and security they need for games to also enjoy the community."
Besides the money the Ricketts have proposed spending on Wrigley Field's renovation, they also want to spend another $200 million on a hotel and other developments in the surrounding Wrigleyville area.
Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, said the renovations are key to the team's future.
"I think it's fundamentally important to get us to the next level as an organization," Epstein said. "We have a baseball plan and a business plan and they're timed to sync up with one another -- they're interdependent.
"If we don't get our Wrigley renovation done in a timely manner and done in the right way, then we can't accomplish our business objectives and it will certainly get in the way of us ultimately accomplshing our baseball objectives," Epstein said. "It's very important."
• The Cubs' Double-A Tennessee Smokies issued a release Monday, saying the team was changing its name to the "Tennessee Browns" because team chairman Jimmy Haslam acquired the NFL franchise last year. The release even included new uniform designs and a note that the caps would not have a logo, just like the Cleveland Browns. The change was to take place April 1.
Well, happy April Fool's Day. There is no switch; it was a prank.
• Javier Baez, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and ranked No. 1 among the Cubs' Top 20 Prospects, will open at Class A Daytona. Pierce Johnson, No. 7 on MLB.com's list of Cubs prospects, and Dan Vogelbach, No. 11, were both assigned to Class A Kane County.
• Jeff Samardzija gave up two hits over eight innings Monday on Opening Day. Of the 100 Cubs Opening Day games since 1914, the only Chicago pitcher to go at least eight innings and give up two or fewer hits in the season opener was Lon Warneke on April 17, 1934. Warneke threw a one-hit shutout that day in a 6-0 win over the Reds.
According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, there were four Opening Days when a Cubs starter threw at least eight scoreless innings: April 12, 1933 (Warneke); April 17, 1934 (Warneke); April 19, 1944 (Hank Wyse); and April 9, 1974 (Bill Bonham).
• Japanese right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa picked up a save in his first appearance with the Cubs, and is the first pitcher to do so with the team since Todd Wellemeyer on May 15, 2003.
• The Triple-A Iowa Cubs will have 18 players with Major League experience on their roster. Lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley return to the rotation. Rusin led the Iowa team in wins (eight), starts (25), and strikeouts (94) last year, and will start the season opener Thursday against Albuquerque.
Right-handers Drew Carpenter, Barret Loux, and Nick Struck round out the starting rotation.
Brett Jackson was optioned to Iowa, and will join outfielders Ty Wright, Brian Bogusevic, Darnell McDonald, and Tim Torres. Also on the Iowa roster are infielders Logan Watkins, who was the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year in 2012.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.